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Introducing the APS-C Sony NEX-EA50. Is This the Future of Consumer Large Sensor Video Cameras?

08.17.12 @ 9:06AM Tags : , ,

Sony, seemingly out of nowhere, has announced a new consumer large sensor video camera called the NEX-EA50 (as usual the name just rolls off the tongue). Don’t be fooled by its outdated looks, as this camera is mostly new technology under the hood, utilizing a 16 megapixel APS-C sensor to record 1080p AVCHD 28mbps video at up to 60fps. The camera comes standard with an 18-200mm F3.5-6.3 lens that features both auto-focus and image stabilization. The shoulder-mount design of the camera is an interesting choice (I’m certainly not complaining), but it will finally allow proper handheld for a camera in this class. Check out the introduction video below from Sony.

These are some of the main specs:

  • 16 megapixel APS-C sensor (can take still images)
  • 1080p at 24/25/30/50/60 fps (1280 and 480 also available)
  • 24mbps with a max of 28mbps AVCHD
  • E-mount interchangeable lenses, Comes with 18-200mm F3.5-6.3
  • 3.5″ 16:9 XtraFine (1920 x 480) LCD
  • Recording Media: Memory Stick – SD/SDHC/SDXC – HXR-FMU128
  • 2 XLR Inputs with Phantom Power
  • No ND filters
  • Weight: 3.79 lbs.
  • Available October 15th
  • Price: $4500 (Price keeps changing, previously $3,600, then $4,000)


The introduction video is interesting, to say the least. So where does this camera fit into the mix? We’ve got so many new cameras coming out, it’s tough to get a grip on who a particular camera is actually designed for. Judging by the video, this will be a wedding cinematographer’s dream camera. It’s going to have good low-light performance and it’s got a servo zoom lens with a rocker on the side. Being able to put this camera on your shoulder at a moment’s notice is much faster than dealing with a rig and a DSLR (I know this because I’ve dealt with both for years). I’ve talked about my preference for camera design before, and it’s obvious Sony is listening to me. I would still like to see one of these Sony cameras put ISO and white balance in an easy to use scroll wheel on the side — you know, since you’d be changing those the most in a run and gun situation — but design-wise there is a lot to like.

As for the sensor in the camera, it’s most likely taken from Sony’s mirrorless line (it probably uses the same sensor as the NEX-5N), so while it’s not going to have the video resolution of the FS100 or FS700, it’s still nice to be able to get the positives of the Sony mirrorless cameras with the design of a proper video camera. Sony is also introducing a new mirroring memory stick that is designed to record a redundant backup right on the same card. I guess I’m not really sure there is much benefit to that (since if the card is corrupt it doesn’t matter if you’ve got two copies), but it’s still an interesting concept.

The fact that it doesn’t have ND filters is a bit of a letdown, but it makes up for that by having a real zoom lens, something that has been sorely missed on DSLRs since their inception. The camera also features something that I will need to see to believe, and that is a digital zoom that crops the sensor in real-time so that you can zoom with prime lenses. From B&H:

To accommodate Sony’s first E-mount lens with servo zoom, the NEX-EA50UH sports a rocker-style zoom lever. The rocker zoom is a familiar feature for long-time camcorder users, but those who are familiar with interchangeable lens systems may wonder, what good is a zoom lever if you are using a prime lens or a manual zoom? Sony’s answer to that question is a lossless digital zoom. The effect is achieved by cropping the image sensor in real-time, which changes the angle-of-view with no sacrifice in resolution.

It will be interesting to see if other manufacturers go back to the shoulder-mount design. Being able to pull out the shoulder pad when you need it and make the camera more compact when you don’t is the best of both worlds. Compact cameras are great for certain instances, but they require all sorts of rigging to really get the most out of them, especially in a professional situation.

If you’re interested, you can pre-order the camera using the link below.

What do you guys think? Are you interested in a $3600 NEX-5N that has all the features of a regular video camera?

Links:

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  • can someone at Sony please fire whoever it is who’s making these promo videos?

    • I lost it at 3:58, Elevator music + the awkward posing… brillance.

    • A-MEN, Brother! The lout that chose the knuckle-dragging chimp music for the opening section must think they’re catering to the ADD crowd. Who notoriously do NOT buy prosumer video cameras.

      It would have been instructive to know the camera’s pulldown. 4:2:2? 3.14159:17:26? This is important enough for editors it’s a spec we shouldn’t have to dig for it.

      The pull-out shoulder rig may be fast, but it leaves 100% of the camera’s weight in front of the shoulder. Anyone who’s done any amount of handholding (and I’ve used 35mm movie rigs for years) knows how important balancing the load front-to-back is for steadiness, especially with longer focal length lenses.

      Sony? Please pay attention here: When you’re introducing a new camera to an audience technically savvy enough to operate and own one, machine-gun rapid editing is NOT what we want to see. I want shots onscreen long enough I can see the ergonomics of how controls are laid out. I do NOT need to see endlessly lingering shots on some bimbo model. It’s wonderful to see examples of specific shots, yes. But I want to see the technology I’m potentially investing in. One other thing: your title cards have some laughable lapses in idiomatic English. You should invest in a better proofreader.

      @Jeff – Sony heard you before you said it. Check out the almost-identical-looking model 700: native 4:2:2 (if memory serves) 250 frames/second in addition to pretty much all the features here. If you’re prepared to either (a) sacrifice some horizontal resolution or (b) render interpolating frames in, say, an AfterEffects plugin like Time Warp, the sucker will do 1000 (that’s one THOUSAND) fps. At a price. Locally, it’s $8500 (another $500 – $600 if you want a Canon or Nikon or PL lens adapter, highly recommended) and the local dealer has sold out their first shipment of 12 to local customers, and there’s a line waiting for the next bunch to come in.

  • trackofalljades on 08.19.12 @ 6:30PM

    “Sony’s answer to that question is a lossless digital zoom. The effect is achieved by cropping the image sensor in real-time, which changes the angle-of-view with no sacrifice in resolution.”

    Can anyone explain to me exactly how this works? I’m trying to grok how exactly angle-of-view can change, losslessly, without something moving around. Does the sensor or some lens move in such a way so as to “overshoot” the edges of the sensor with the light coming into the camera?

    • My guess is that the camera crops it’s 16 megapixel chip into something smaller. It’s like switching from a full-frame sensor to APS-C sensor; the latter has a crop factor of 1.6 and therefore, whilst keeping the lens focal length fixed, the difference in sensor size will affect the apparent focal length of the lens.

      • trackofalljades on 08.23.12 @ 3:15PM

        I guess my confusion is…when a still camera performs what I’d call an “honest” digital zoom, it outputs a lower resolution image file. With video however, you’re shooting at a given resolution and that’s that. So what exactly about this digital-zoom-during-video is more “lossless” than any other digital-zoom-during-video? Is it only available when you’re shooting in 720p or something?

        • I think it might work this way:
          Imagine your DSLR: when you take a video the camera is recording only from a 8th (…to simplify) of the “pixels” available on the sensor. For easy understanding, imagine that this “active pixel grid” is very sparse on the sensor. Imagine now to “condense” that “active pixel grid” at the very center in order to use only the 1920×1080 central area of a 4928 × 3264 sensor. This will let the sensor record only the central part of the sensor, zooming in digitally. Its like cropping out a bigger picture to see only the center of it.
          I think that at sony they managed to dynamically change the “sparseness” on the sensor while recording.

  • Sony if you are listening please add cropped window modes for 16mm, S16mm and 2/3″ lenses. A windowed 120 fps mode would also be awesome as well. Even if it’s only at 720p.

  • Roland Contreras on 08.25.12 @ 3:17AM

    This is just what I wanted about a year ago. This is a very attractive camera and whitin reach of the more advanced amateurs.

  • If they’re going to create a camera that is setup like the all-in-one traditional pro video camera’s, why not include built in ND filters? I do like the multiple versions of available recording media tho!

    • Really, the lack of an ND filter wheel is a no-go on such a run and gun type camera.
      You definitely need ND filters as soon as you go outside, even when it’s cloudy. When I have to screw them on the lens or put a mattebox on this thing, then what’s the point of having this all-in-one shoulder mount?

  • But is it 422 color space?

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